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Birkdale Signal Box

A Grade II Listed Building in Southport, Sefton

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.6343 / 53°38'3"N

Longitude: -3.0143 / 3°0'51"W

OS Eastings: 333029

OS Northings: 415790

OS Grid: SD330157

Mapcode National: GBR 7VDD.6X

Mapcode Global: WH861.NXV7

Entry Name: Birkdale Signal Box

Listing Date: 21 November 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1412052

Location: Sefton, PR8

County: Sefton

Electoral Ward/Division: Duke's

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Southport

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Birkdale St James

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool

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Summary

Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway signal box built 1905.

Description

Railway signal box, 1905, by and for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

MATERIALS: timber with horizontal weatherboarding; slate roof finished with a perforated terracotta ridge with curved finials.

EXTERIOR: the signal box is of two storeys with a hipped roof. The upper operating floor is jettied out to the east (towards the line) and south (towards the level crossing), supported by iron brackets. The signal box retains its original operating-room windows which are a mixture of fixed and horizontal sliding sashes, all of four panes, the glazing being continuous to the front and sides. Below the main windows there is a row of small fixed panes. The signal box also retains its external board walk supported by simple metal brackets (designed to provide access for window cleaning), as well as late 1930s London Midland Scottish Railway name boards. The lower, locking-room floor was lit by four pane windows to the sides and ends, but these have been boarded over. Access to the signal box is via the ground floor from the northern end. Some of the perforated ridge tiles have been broken, although the majority are intact, as are the finials.

INTERIOR: the signal box has not been modernised internally, the operating floor still being open to the rafters. The box also retains its original 24 lever Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Tappet frame dating to 1905. Access to the operating floor appears to have been via an internal, rather than the more usual external, staircase.

History

From the 1840s, huts or cabins were provided for men operating railway signals. These were often located on raised platforms containing levers to operate the signals and in the early 1860s, the fully glazed signal box, initially raised high on stilts to give a good view down the line, emerged. The interlocking of signals and points, perhaps the most important single advance in rail safety, patented by John Saxby in 1856, was the final step in the evolution of railway signalling into a form recognisable today. Signal boxes were built to a great variety of different designs and sizes to meet traffic needs by signalling contractors and the railway companies themselves.

Signal box numbers peaked at around 12,000-13,000 for Great Britain just prior to the First World War and successive economies in working led to large reductions in their numbers from the 1920s onwards. British Railways inherited around 10,000 in 1948 and numbers dwindled rapidly to about 4000 by 1970. In 2012, about 750 remained in use; it was anticipated that most would be rendered redundant over the next decade.

Birkdale Railway Station was opened as part of the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway in 1848. In 1904 the line was absorbed into the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway which replaced the 1870s signal box with one of its own design in 1905. From the early 1890s, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway had built its own signal boxes, being pre-fabricated at the company's engineering works in Horwich. The company's standard design was based on that developed by the Railway Signalling Company which supplied the company in the 1880s. However the example at Birkdale is one of a group of signal boxes built in 1904-6 to a modified design incorporating a steeply pitched hipped roof rather than the standard gabled roof. Birkdale was closed in 1994.

Birkdale Signal Box is sited on the north-west side of the Liverpool Road level crossing with the station being immediately to the south of the crossing.

Reasons for Listing

Birkdale Signal Box, a Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway signal box built 1905, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Lack of alteration: an unmodernised signal box that still retains its original windows, lever frame and other rarely surviving features such as the external boardwalk;
* Representative: a good, rare surviving example of the hipped roof style of Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway signal box.

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